Here’s a description of the progression of your everyday street photographer.
I’ll just get right to it, but please take this as tongue in cheek!
1. The Brick Phase
After watching the Vivian Maier documentary one day, you buy your first street photography camera.
Vivian Maier made it look easy, but it’s not.
2. The Sniper Phase
You get a long zoom, head to the mall and hide in the corner, snapping shots of people from far away.
In reality, you with your giant white lens are the most obvious person there. The mall cops quickly kick you out.
In the parking lot, you take a spectacularly artful photograph of a shopping cart with a missing wheel in the early evening light. You will never again take a better photograph.
20 years after you die, Shopping Cart, 2021 will be the centerpiece of your MOMA retrospective and inspire a generation of shopping cart photos, referred to as the shopping cart aesthetic.
To this day, if you put two people in front of the famed Shopping Cart, one will have a profound spiritual experience, while the other will say, ‘Why the fuck am I looking at a Wegmans shopping cart?’
3. The Getting Too Close Phase
Over time, you get closer and closer and closer. And closer. Getting close becomes an adrenaline rush.
You don’t consider your photographs to be good unless you can see someone’s nose hairs. In fact, so many of your photos are just crops of nose hairs that you complete your first street photography series, titled Snout.
3a. The Uncomfortable Flash Phase
You watch a YouTube Bruce Gilden video one day and decide that flash is the only way to go. A street photograph is just not any good unless you can see the well-lit veins in a person’s forehead.
After your third fistfight, you retire the flash unit.
4. The Black and White Garry Winogrand Phase
By this point, you’ve worked out the kinks and you sort of know what you’re doing. Your photographs are technically good, you can photograph people easily from the right distance, and you’re starting to feel comfortable.
Harsh lighting, more contrast, grit, sharpening to the extreme.
Clearly, you are now the greatest street photographer who has ever walked the earth. You capture person after person walking down the street – all of them sharp and well lit, backgrounds perfect. You imagine the galleries, the adoration, the wealth, amazing sex. It’s all there in front of you.
Hey… it worked for Bresson.
4a. The You Get Called a Pedophile in the Park One Day For Taking an Artsy Photograph of a Plant Next to a Group of Kids Phase
You never photograph plants again.
5. The Learning About Other Photographers Phase
The world of other photographers starts to open up to you. At first, it’s invigorating and you start to adopt all types of styles into your work. The sky is the limit. You mimic Sternfeld, Daido, and Martin Parr. You decide from now on that you will only shoot in color.
You burn your black and white hard drives in a bonfire to rid yourself of that naive phase. Except you keep Snout. Snout was great.
But soon things turn, and you begin to feel like the worst photographer in the world. How can you possibly create work like these other incredible photographers? It’s humbling, as it should be.
But the reality is that you’re looking at decades of the best work from the most prolific photographers. If you’re not humbled and if this doesn’t make you depressed sometimes with your own work, then something’s wrong.
6. The Buying Too Many Photobooks Phase
You research the best bookshelves to buy. You follow all the photobook accounts on Instagram. You begin each book by first smelling the paper.
You create a Photography Salon just so you can write off your photobook purchases as a business expense.
6a. The Divorce Phase
Hey, at least you have more time for your photography and books.
You enter a ten-year phase where you roam the countryside only photographing ravens.